Saturday, May 13, 2017

Most Republicans In Congress Are Still Pretending They See Nothing All That Wrong With Trump's Fascist Behavior


Like most Republicans, GA-06 candidate Karen Handel is sticking with Trump

I checked this morning to see how many co-sponsors there were for Eric Swalwell's bill that would mandate a National Commission on Foreign Interference in the 2016 Election. Swalwell's bill would lead to an examination of "any attempts or activities by the Russian government... to influence, interfere with, or sow distrust in elections for public office held in the United States in 2016," the Protecting Democracy Act. It's up to 199 co-sponsores, the two most recent being principled conservativess Walter Jones (R-NC) and Justin Amash (R-MI). They're also the only Republicans on board so far.

Yesterday far right ex-Congressman Joe Walsh, currently a radio talk show host based in Chicago, tweeted that "it's time for a Special Prosecutor. It's way past time." McConnell and Ryan have both come out strongly against anything independent or anything non-partisan. They refuse to have any investigation that can't be ultimately controlled by the Republican Party. The only House Republicans beyond Jones and Amash who publicly favor the independent approach are 3 in very swingy districts-- Carlos Curbelo (FL), Erik Paulsen (MN) and Barbara Comstock (VA)-- where angry and concerned voters are likely to defeat anyone hampering an independent investigation.

You probably know how the whole Putin-Gate scandal is playing out from the left perspective. Historian Timothy Snyder, who recognizes Trump as a plutocratic authoritarian and a fascist, asserts it a coup in real time and that by firing Comey Trump as as much as admitting he is colluding with the Kremlin. He says that Trump's "The president’s decision to fire Comey is an enormous abuse of presidential authority. To all appearances, Trump is removing a threat posed by the person who is leading the investigation of his administration’s (and his campaign’s) possibly treasonous connections with Russia. Trump will now be able to appoint a political loyalist as Comey’s successor."
Like the leader of a banana republic or a Mafia boss, Trump has surrounded himself with a small group of advisers and confidantes comprised mainly of his family members. He has contempt for journalists and the concept of a free press. He leads a cult of personality, marketing himself as an autocratic who will protect and defend his “forgotten Americans” against all threats foreign and domestic. Trump has no respect for the standing norms of American democracy. He and his supporters evidently believe that the rule of law does not apply to him.

Authoritarians are paranoid by definition. To that end, they ruthlessly consolidate power and eliminate any threats to their power. In keeping with this script, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday, in a hastily written letter of dismissal delivered to FBI headquarters by Keith Schiller, the leader of the president’s personal Praetorian Guard. Comey’s firing was also endorsed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a man who has no credibility after having been caught repeatedly lying about his own contacts with representatives of the Russian government.

Comey’s dismissal comes one day after Trump appeared to threaten former acting Attorney General Sally Yates before she gave testimony to the Senate about Vladimir Putin’s efforts to subvert American democracy and the dangers posed by likely Russian operative and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Trump’s dismissal of Comey came on the same day it was announced that a federal grand jury is investigating Flynn and his associates regarding their financial connections to Russian interests.

...Snyder also predicted: Donald Trump will stage his own version of Adolf Hitler’s Reichstag fire-- a manufactured crisis or some other type of political or social upheaval-- to enact a state of emergency or otherwise consolidate his power by subverting America’s political institutions.

Is Trump’s firing of Comey the next step in this direction? I corresponded with Snyder by email on Wednesday to learn his thoughts about this new development.

His “very first thought” on hearing the Comey news, Snyder wrote, “was that this was a far more open admission of collusion with Russia than even a confession would be.”

...In total, Trump’s firing of Comey, his hostility to an independent judiciary, his authoritarian behavior and his evident attempts to control or contain the investigation into his connections to Russia add up to a constitutional crisis. Unfortunately, Trump is being aided and abetted in his irresponsible, and perhaps even criminal behavior, by a Republican Party that, to this point, values power and partisan politics over loyalty to country and true patriotism. Trump’s supporters among the American people are deeply devoted to their leader, even if that means siding with Putin’s Russia and spitting in the face of American democracy. They are authoritarian lemmings.

So let's turn to the Weekly Standard to see how this crisis is playing out from a right-wing perspective. Stephen Hayes acknowledged that Señor Trumpanzee "fired James Comey just as the FBI director moved to expand and intensify the bureau's counterintelligence investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and the possible collusion of Trump advisers in those efforts." And he's smart enough to warn that "that development alone ought to give pause to Republicans inclined to go to the barricades for the president. But there's more. The White House's after-the-fact explanations of the Comey firing were inconsistent and internally contradictory-- and even, at times, demonstrably untrue."
After Comey was fired, the Trump administration sought to portray the dismissal as something Trump acted upon but did not conceive. The White House released the letter Trump sent to Comey, along with letters from Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein laying out the case against Comey. Trump wrote Comey that he had "accepted their recommendation" to fire him. Hours after that letter was made public, Trump spokesman Sean Spicer held an impromptu press availability outside the White House. Spicer answered a few questions, but redirected many others to the Department of Justice because, he said, "they're the ones that made the recommendation." The next day, Vice President Mike Pence defended "the president's decision to accept the recommendation of the deputy attorney general and the attorney general to remove Director Comey." But this is not, in fact, what happened. As White House sources told the Weekly Standard at the time, and as Trump later made explicit in an interview with NBC News, the president was "going to fire [Comey] regardless of the recommendation." By Trump's own telling, he would have fired Comey even if Sessions and Rosenstein had recommended keeping him-- a direct contradiction of the White House line of the previous two days.

The pace of the inconsistencies was dizzying. One day before firing Comey, Trump tweeted: "The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax. [W]hen will this taxpayer funded charade end?" On Tuesday, shortly after Comey's termination, spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders declared: "It's time to move on." But in the aftermath of copious reporting that Comey's termination came because of Trump's frustration with the FBI's Russia probe-- not the Hillary Clinton email investigation-- White House officials did another 180. By Thursday Sanders was saying, about Trump's view of the Russia investigation: "I think he would love nothing more than [for] this investigation to continue to its completion."

On it went all week-- one Trumpian argument after another falling apart. And yet Republican officeholders mostly stuck by their president. Some of them praised Trump. Others avoided comment. Still others focused exclusively-- reflexively, predictably-- on the (very real) inconsistency of Democrats.

...[T]here are times, when the stakes are high, that self-respecting officeholders need to lead, even if it's politically risky, rather than circle the wagons.

One who did last week was Representative Mike Gallagher (R-WI). He expressed his unease, fittingly, in a series of tweets on May 10:
Like many Americans, I have serious concerns and unanswered questions about the timing of Director Comey's dismissal. It is imperative that both Congressional and FBI investigations into Russian interference in our country continue unimpeded and unaltered. As I've discussed, Russia is no friend to the US. Its malicious activities here and abroad must not go unanswered. As we continue these critical investigations, we must ruthlessly pursue the [truth], wherever it may lead. We must put the sanctity of our democracy far, far above partisan interest. This goes for my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. The American people deserve the truth, not politically-driven talking points. The next steps from the President, the Department of Justice, and the Attorney General will say a great deal. What we need now is a fearless, strong, and independent Director for the FBI. We must keep the faith with the American people. Americans deserve a full, fair, and honest account of what happened. They deserve the confidence that their government is telling the truth. We cannot afford any lingering questions. The legitimacy of our democracy and the sanctity of the rule of law is too important.
He's right. It's worth noting that Gallagher is a freshman member of the House, 33 years old. Where are the senior statesmen among congressional Republicans?
Where indeed. Politico led yesterday with a sad statement about Republicans refusing to consider an independent, non-partisan investigation that could lead towards impeachment. "Democrats who thought the sudden dismissal of FBI Director James Comey would finally jolt Republicans to back a special prosecutor to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign are going to be sorely disappointed. Even Republicans who’ve criticized the timing behind the abrupt firing aren’t yet willing to trigger a confrontation with the Trump administration by demanding an independent counsel." Lindsey Graham and John McCain seem to be for an independent investigation-- more or less-- but no other Senate Republicans are backing that somewhat amorphous call, not even people who have grown to detest Trump, like Jeff Flake, Joni Ernst and Ben Sasse, each of whom has indicated in the past they recognize him as a threat to the country. And when it comes to congenital cowards like Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz... crickets-- or worse, support for Trump's indefensible, ever-changing positions.

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At 2:33 PM, Blogger Elizabeth Burton said...

Just out of curiosity, what makes you think they're "pretending"?

At 6:00 PM, Blogger Thomas Ten Bears said...

Are you aware of just how frightening a prospect that closing graphic is?

And eyaw, what she said.

At 6:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And when forced to name a commission, they bring Lee Hamilton out of retirement at IU and, in a bold bipartisan stroke, name him Chairman. Because nobody whitewashes Republican crimes like Lee Hamilton.

At 2:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The appointment of an independent counsel is ultimately the decision of the Attorney General.

As I have noted before:
After Congress appointed Ken Starr, it "allowed the 'independent counsel' provisions of law to expire. Upon the expiration of the law in June of 1999, no new 'independent counsels' or 'special prosecutors' may be appointed ... The Attorney General retains the general authority to designate or name individuals as 'special counsels' to conduct investigations or prosecutions of particular matters or individuals on behalf of the United States." (pdf file download of Congressional Research Service)

The current "independent" counsel law:

I did previously miss one interesting point, at § 592, in said law:

"(1) By judiciary committee or members thereof.—
The Committee on the Judiciary of either House of the Congress, or a majority of majority party members or a majority of all nonmajority party members of either such committee, may request in writing that the Attorney General apply for the appointment of an independent counsel."

So while, Jeff Sessions has the final say in the matter, a majority of the Dem members of either the House or the Senate Judiciary committees "may request in writing that the Attorney General apply for the appointment of an independent counsel."

So there is no need to hopelessly wonder if the GOP will ask for an investigation of a sitting GOP president.

It can be done by a majority of these Dem House Judiciary Comm members:
Conyers, Nadler, Lofgren, Jackson-Lee, Cohen, Johnson, Deutch, Gutiérrez, Bass, Richmond, Jefferies, Cicilline, Swalwell, Lieu, Raskin, Jayapal, Schneider.

or these Dem Senate Judiciary Comm members:

Dianne Feinstein (CA)
Patrick Leahy (VT)
Dick Durbin (IL)
Sheldon Whitehouse (RI)
Amy Klobuchar (MN)
Al Franken (MN)
Christopher A. Coons (DE)
Richard Blumenthal (CT)
Mazie Hirono (HI)


Let's see if our Dem heroes have the nerve to ask and, if they do***, then hysterically soil our undies over Sessions's response

John Puma

*** not sitting on a hot stove waiting

At 6:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looking at the list of senators, I've rarely seen a longer list of cowardice and corruption. I'm not as familiar with the house names, except Lieu and Jayapal who seem genuine. Conyers is as useless as the senators.

At 12:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And off to the side stands Tom Sawyer, munching on an apple while the others whitewash the fence.


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